Fort Lauderdale DIDN'T ban feeding the homeless!

By now, I assume many of you are familiar with this guy:

This is Arnold Abbott, a 90 year old homeless advocate in Fort Lauderdale. All around the country, media is splashing headlines:

90 YR OLD ARRESTED FOR FEEDING THE HOMELESS!

Florida Activists Arrested For Serving Food To Homeless!

...on and on and on the headlines go. But what if I told you this is a great, big, fat lie? Because it is! There is no such law in Fort Lauderdale banning advocates from feeding the homeless! HERE is the law that was broken:

Feeding sites are not to be more than 500 feet away from each other and 500 feet from residential properties. Only one group is allowed to share food with the homeless per city block.

500. Hundred. Feet.

If you live in Chicago, for comparison, that's about the distance from Randolph and Michigan to Randolph and Wabash. It's less than 1/10th of a mile.

I'm not here to sing praises of the mayor of Fort Lauderdale. I don't know the guy and, really, in this case, it doesn't matter if he's a saint or a jerk. What I am here to tell you is that this ordinance is in place for a good reason. Have you ever talked to homeless people who live on the street? If not, please do. Ask them what it's like when charitable organizations come in set up food stations, serve delicious meals, and then go home. Usually, they leave their mess behind. And guess what happens when they do. I'll give you one, big, visual hint:

rats

These guys come. In DROVES. And - news flash! - the closer feeding stations are to one another, the more concentrated the leftover garbage... which means more rats. And guess what else? Fort Lauderdale is one of the 10 most rat-infested cities in the USA. Think about that for a moment.

We all know that rats carry diseases which, in and of itself is a problem. But, if you truly want to help the homeless, consider this: what do you think rats do at night when you and I are all cozy and snug in our beds? I'll tell you exactly what they're doing: they're tormenting homeless people who live on the streets. I've spoken with countless homeless people who can tell you - in vivid detail - how they have to break bottles and fill in sidewalk cracks with the shattered glass before laying down their cardboard sleep mats to discourage rats from coming up through the cracks in the pavement to dig around in their clothing. Sounds like fun, hey? No, thank you.

But allow me to get to the heart of what really makes me angry as a homeless advocate who works hard to coordinate with and respect others who are also out to help those in need. Mr. Abbott and his friends were asked to move their station one block away and they refused.  Why? Why?? The new ordinance is in place to provide safe, sanitary accommodations to the homeless who are being served. It's also geared toward encouraging advocates to work together. Why does Mr Abbott feel this is such a bad thing that he's justified in breaking the city ordinances? I don't get it. If Mr. Abbott wants to serve the homeless, he is welcome to do so - either provide a portable bathroom for the homeless he's feeding outside (a reasonable request) or invite them to come eat at his church. If you're so willing to jump on the "pro Chef Arnold" band wagon, have the common decency to read what the city of Fort Lauderdale has to say about their ordinance here: Fort Lauderdale Mayor's Office Statement on Homeless Initiatives

So many of us work tirelessly every year, forgoing our own family holiday celebrations, weekend down time, and more. We follow our cities' rules and we learn to do what needs to be done within ever changing guidelines. Why should Arnold Abbott be any different than the rest of us who are out there doing the same thing without breaking any laws? It's not fair to anyone and it's certainly not helping the homeless a whole lot either. On the surface, it seems like he is doing a good thing and, overall, I do believe his intentions are good. But he's actually contributing to the problem and making things worse. And look. 500 feet between feeding stations is NOT worth breaking the law over. Being obstinate for the sake of gaining media attention does nothing to make things better for anyone except Mr. Abbott's own 15 minutes of fame and that kind of stinks.

If you really have compassion and you truly care to help the homeless, please, Please, PLEASE share this post with everyone you know. The truth needs to be told and these rah-rah bandwagon news sites are much more interested in getting clicks than they are on getting the truth out! Aren't you sick of being lied to all in the name of a dishonest feel-good story? I know I am, and you should be too!

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    If you would like to help Mr. Abbott in his legal fight against the City of Ft. Lauderdale, please donate to the following fundraiser:

    Please also share via your social media and email as the more people who read and donate the more we can all help this man.

    Damon Wells

  • In reply to Damon Wells:

    No way, absolutely NOT. This is a terrible idea! The ordinance is in place for a good reason - did you even read this post, Damon Wells?? Mr. Abbott knowingly broke the rules and for absolutely no good reason. If he really wanted to help the homeless, he simply needs to set up his stand 500 feet away from other food stands and residential buildings.

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    In reply to Kelley Farrell:

    I will give you the kudos you seem to crave for your efforts in feeding the homeless, but truly, how can somebody who does that blame others for doing the same? If it means blocking entire intersections to set up food tables, SO BE IT, it would once and for all get people's focus where it should be: ON THE CAUSES OF homelessness and hunger, not the SYMPTOMS!!! TRY THINKING without ANY BOXES, YOUNG LADY, IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE, becausse There Are No Boxes. There is only GREED, and greed is what creates poverty. PERIOD. One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • In reply to Granny Tenderstone:

    I don't crave kudos and I'm not even sure why you fabricated the idea that I do.

    I do believe in following the rules unless breaking the rules is the last resort. In this case, it wasn't. There are many workable solutions and Mr. Abbott chose ti bypass all of them. I don't disagree with helping the needy. I do disagree with breaking the rules to do it when there are workable solutions that don't break the rules.

  • I live and work in downtown Fort Lauderdale. I support the Mayor and the Commision. Why don't the activists feed the homeless, from their homes or their churches? maybe they do not want homeless intheir backyards?

  • In reply to JM1313:

    That's what I want to know, JM1313. If the advocacy folks really feel a need to feed the homeless in a public place, why aren't they fundraising to afford to rent the required portable toilets, too? If they don't want to make that effort, then they're welcome to feed the homeless in their churches. This is not rocket science and it's not an unreasonable request by the city.

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    In reply to Kelley Farrell:

    um, why aren't YOU doing that? easy to talk, hey? You're missing the BIGGER elephant in the room. Putting bandaids on gaping wounds in our nation isn't logical. You are not logical. You're addressing the SYMPTOMS, not the causes. If you aren't feeding the homeless yourself, YOU are part of the problem. Get off your butt and learn something about HOW our nation got to this point, instead of whining about the smaller details. This is why our nation has failed, people are so stupid they allow propagandists to force their focus on symptoms, so they will remain distracted from the cause of any given thing. LEARN TO THINK LOGICALLY. You could try to figure out how to glue grandma's china back together after you drop it on concrete, OR YOU COULD JUST PREVENT THE DAMAGE IN THE FIRST PLACE, it's called logic, child.

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    In reply to JM1313:

    Picnicking outlawed in Fort Lauderdale....

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    In reply to JM1313:

    I'm not in Fort Lauderdale, but I undersand the fact that every bum thin the US finds Florida attractive during Winter. Just like every other person that isn't homeless finds Florida attractive. I would suggest the city of Fort Lauderdale and other Florida cities work with Cities that also have high homelessness, such as New York, Chicago, etc. to find a payment sharing plan where if your city 'exports' Homeless, then your city needs to pick up the tab in the cities that 'Import' them. In fact you could use computer science to find the birth city and place the burden of that birth on them. Maybe that's a little to Authoritarian, but that's what I would do in this day and age.

  • From everything I read, the people feeding the homeless did not leave a mess behind. It had more to do with keeping the homeless out of sight and out of mind. Remember Alderman Cappleman the Cruel? He tried to stop Salvation Army from feeding the homeless. Sal Army leaves no mess behind. He lost that battle. Criminalizing humanity should be a crime against humanity. You also left out the part about buying permits to feed the hungry.

  • In reply to Peter Bella:

    It's not at all about keeping the homeless out of sight and out of mind, Peter. It's about working together to bring about change that will actually improve their lives by having advocacy groups work together instead of just doing whatever the heck they want because it's what they want to do. Did you know that Fort Lauderdale is the only city in South Florida that's part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign to move disabled, chronically homeless people to a place of their own?

    The citizens of the community are frustrated and the mayor's office is trying to find solutions that can help the homeless without making taxpayers feel mad as hell. It's a tough balance and I applaud the office for its efforts.

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    In reply to Peter Bella:

    Damn Right.

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    In reply to Peter Bella:

    If there is any true cosmic justice, and I know there is, the Capplemans and others like him will find themselves being bed on the streets someday too. it will humble their haughty nature, and let them get a taste of their own inhumanity while simultaneously receiving compassion.

  • Sorry Ms. Farrell, but I have been following this since it started. The ordinance is longer than the single paragraph you cited. The whole purpose of this is the same as Cappleman the Cruel. Don't feed the homeless is the same as don't feed the pigeons. No one, and I mean no one, should be barred from feeding people in need. It should be a crime against humanity to pass and enforce such laws. What if they passed a law banning you from providing your bags? This is just NIMBY inhumanity.

  • In reply to Peter Bella:

    I've also been following this from the beginning, Peter. We'll have to agree to disagree. As a long-time advocate for the homeless, I believe the ordinance rules make sense and I support them fully. There is no "don't feed the homeless" rule in Ft Lauderdale. It doesn't exist. The rule is that there must be no more than one outdoor feeding facility per block/500 ft between locations. They need to have the property owner's permission to distribute food and they need to provide portable bathrooms. These are all reasonable expectations. Nobody is banning anyone from providing food. Not at all.

  • In reply to Kelley Farrell:

    I call BS. Fort Lauderdale is the same as Cappleman the Cruel. Do not feed the homeless. Do not feed the pigeons. Get over your self. I will violate any law to feed people. There is no judge in Cook County that would convict me. I will keep feeding the homeless. People cannot eat toiletetries.

  • Mr. Abbott has been doing this since 1991 through the organization Love Thy Neighbor as a tribute to his wife. He should not stop doing what he does, the city & the police officers should help him keep doing what he does in the best way possible. From what I have read it does seem the ordinance is targeted at him because his service to the homeless is the largest and most visible. He follows protocol and makes sure all is cleaned up. He is not just some 90 year old. He is Arnold Abbott, a Veteran who has served our country who we owe our freedom to, and not only that, but he has been serving the homeless in Ft. Lauderdale for over 23 years. There is no question that what the city and officers did is a grave injustice. He deserves to be highly respected by the city, Mayor and the police officers. I truly hope the Mayor sees the light and decides to work with Mr. Abbott rather than against him. We need more people like Mr. Abbott in the world. Hopefully this situation will light the way to help address the root of the problem when it comes to homelessness. The ordinance will surely do nothing in that regard, but Mr. Abbott, he certainly has done more and will do more than those officers ever could do in their entire lives.

  • In reply to justiceFL:

    I've been helping the homeless for many years, too. If a law comes into place, I figure out how to rework what I'm doing to fit within the law's guidelines and Mr. Abbott should do so as well. There is no law stating that he cannot feed the homeless. None whatsoever. He can feed them in public with permission from the owner of the land he wants to work on (fair) and if his organization provides portable bathrooms (also fair). OR he is welcome to invite them into his place of worship to feed them. All fantastic options. What he cannot do is disobey the law.

    Mr. Abbott being a vet has nothing to do with his outreach and it's a fallacy to link his service in the military to helping the homeless.

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    In reply to justiceFL:

    amen, bless your wisdom!! <3 Ms. Kelley's post seems to be about her own ego and she seems to lack any grasp on the true issue here -- how homelessness exists in the first place.

  • The ordinance is a serious infringement upon his constitutional rights and representative of a culture that devalues our constitution, morality, and true freedom to live out ones life purpose.

  • In reply to justiceFL:

    No, it's not. Sorry but we'll have to agree to disagree. He's most welcome to continue to help the homeless as a law-abiding citizen and there are many ways he can do that without disbanding his outreach.

  • I am aboard member of an organization that feeds the homeless. we will disobey any law, politician, like Cappleman the Cruel, to feed people. Feeding the homeless and the hungry should never be outlawed. It should be a crime against humanity to enact such laws. Again, what if the city enacted an ordinance banning your distribution of your bags? What would you think? Feeding the hungry should not be a crime.,

  • In reply to Peter Bella:

    Not sure why you keep asking about distributing my bags - I don't distribute bags.

    And this is not even close to Cappleman.

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    In reply to Peter Bella:

    Please, please, help Florida with there homeless problem. Your ideals are correct and grand, but do not presume you have walked the streets of this City, until you have.

    If you have this same opinion after visiting, then we need bring to the cities and towns that these homeless are from.

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    It costs between $100 to $150 a day to rent one porta pottie. To say this is a reasonable expenditure and logistics for a grass root charity org. is simply nonsense.However public bathrooms Should be a reasonable expenditure for any municipalities parks. And the accusation that food share org.s leave piles of rotting trash in their wake is a lie. You are spouting typical ponerization doublespeak. You are schilling for the Man and we will certainly agree to disagree.

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    In reply to Brock Newitt:

    I'm not familiar w' Ft.Lauderdale law but typically providing a portapottie requires a permit which is another expense and ultimately simply a roadblock since it would likely be impossible to obtain on a daily basis for these purposes.

  • In reply to Brock Newitt:

    No, actually, it's not a lie. Some organizations are great about cleaning up after themselves and others are not. I'm out on the streets all winter helping the homeless and I see it time and again, especially on Sundays. But, as I said in the post, that's not even what really gets me. It's that everyone's running around saying "there's a ban on feeding the homeless" when THAT is actually a lie. And, having helped the homeless and disabled for most of my adult life, it angers me when people aren't thoughtful enough to say ti themselves, "ok. this is the new law? let's figure out how to keep doing what we do without breaking this new law." There are always solutions if people work together.

  • In reply to Brock Newitt:

    Also, it's $75-$100 per day if renting on a day-to-day basis. It's significantly less to rent one on a long-term basis.

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    In reply to Kelley Farrell:

    None the less, A prohibitive cost for most org.'s. And setting up a portapottie in a public park surely requires a permit which is cost prohibitive and likely wouldn't be issued for this purpose. It's a boondoggle. Keeping the parks pretty for the moneyed folks is the real goal in these laws and everybody knows it. Your ponerized argument is a boondoggle.

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    In reply to Brock Newitt:

    not only that, but in some regions they are building tiny cottages for the homeless to sleep in -- that's SOMETHING!! It serves the PUBLIC by giving some small shelter to those many people can't stand to see -- because those people truly have some type of ego or GUILT inside -- but at least it is some effort anyway.

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    "Because feeding the homeless should never be a crime"

    https://www.causes.com/campaigns/85807-rescind-ban-on-feeding-homeless-in-public-in-ft-lauderdale

  • In reply to Patrick Doyle:

    There isn't a ban on feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale.

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    Yet you had to use a stock photo of rats from the UK?

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    I'm off to research how rats from the UK are getting to Florida.

  • In reply to Little Wing:

    Rats exist world-wide and Fort Lauderdale is the 10th most rat-infested city in the US. Would it have pleased you more for me to find a photo of Fort Lauderdale rats? Here. An actual Fort Lauderdale rat just for you:
    http://pestcontrolfortlauderdale.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/get-fast-relief-from-pest-problems.jpg

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    In reply to Little Wing:

    odd how people freak out about rodents odd how people freak out about rodents, when the actual RATS are the ones who CAUSE homelessness in the first place, most of them are on Wall Street or patronize the Wall Street Casino Brothels where addicton to greed is the order of the day, which leads to substandard wages and lack of benefits for the TRUE wealth creators: the working class. I have this gut feeling that Ms. Farrell is upset because she claims to be helping the homeless and isn't getting any recognition for it, which of course is the wrong purpose -- you don't exercise compassion for recognition. She is unable to address the causess, and then had the audacity to talk bout "law abiding" ways of serving the hungry, while the greedy push hungry further and further into epidemic status. hunger and homelessness are the direct result of the Ms. Farrells of the world ignoring the bigger elephant.

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    Kelly Farrell, I understand what you are saying. And you are right, we will have to agree to disagree. The bottom line in all of this is that the law is discriminatory, it violates the civil rights not only of people like Arnold Abbott who are being charitable, but of the homeless as well.
    Your insistence that porta-potties be leased is ridiculousness. It is an unnecessary expense, and an unreasonable demand. Is there always a toilet nearby when you eat? And what does a toilet have to do, exactly, with trash removal? Are you suggesting the trash should be disposed of in the porta-potties?
    No. This is another way for bureaucrats to hide the unsightliness of homelessness. Make it financially and logistically impossible for private citizens to assist the homeless, so the homeless will either be driven away, or driven to a government agency where they will likely be given very little actual assistance, but will now be "in the system".
    That won't work. Mr. Abbott is spot on when he says it will result in "dumpster diving", which will create illness and injuries. And it will result in theft. If you've ever gone a few days without eating anything, you will understand that real hunger is very different than that "I haven't eaten all day" feeling in your tummy. Truly hungry people will break the law to get food. And that will ultimately result in tragedy as well.
    Feeding another human being who is hungry should never be against the law. There is no easy answer to the trash problem. But you have trash problems anyway because people often don't dispose of their food containers and leftovers properly. I'm talking about working people with a home. It's laziness and it's ignorance, and it's a lack of respect for the environment. But it is common for people to just throw their trash on the ground. I see it all the time. So let's not blame the homeless and those trying to help them for the trash problem. In most cases the persons feeding the homeless do trash removal.
    Mr. Abbott already fought this battle, fifteen years ago. Let's stop this insanity, and put our efforts and government spending into more public restrooms, and in better sanitation removal practices by the city. In every city, not just Fort Lauderdale.

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    In reply to Trudy:

    Bingo. Heck, I heard Utah was addressing their homeless problem by--hold on now, this is a shock--providing apartments to homeless people. People who don't have to be fed on the street are much less likely to leave food trash there. Not completely UNlikely--as you pointed out, housed people litter all the time, including food trash--but the incidence would drop.

    And rat control is another area in which municipalities need to spend the money. Even my adopted hometown of Columbus, OH has cut back in this area, and I wish I understood why.

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    In reply to Trudy:

    such wisdom!! <3

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    hahahahahahaaaaa!!!! its cause the rats!!! lol!

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    I suppose I should ask the obvious question.

    How is dictating how many groups show up and how far apart they are to be from one another, in any way relevant to how much garbage is left behind?

    Why didn't Fort Lauderdale just pass an ordinance requiring feeding operations to clean up after themselves?

    And why didn't YOU ask this question instead of defending a clear example of government overreach? Now I'm not a no-government libertarian. If we have to have nation-states, then we have to have governments and I'm all for making them work FOR us more often than not.

    My point is that THIS is not an example of a government working FOR us. If you want to fight a specific problem, you don't do it by passing laws that don't address the problem directly.

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    I can smell the spin on this story, your telling me this guy has been feeding homeless for over 25 years, for a quarter fucken century and has been running this charity out of HIS POCKET and he would be so damn petty to not move his food tables ?!?! I don't think this guy has those kinds of arrogance issue's but I can smell the fucken Bill O Reilly stink on your disgusting republican values Farrell your fucken disgusting, I hope YOU LOSE EVERYTHING one day and YOU HAVE TO RELY ON THE HELPS OF OTHERS JUST TO FUCKEN SURVIVE A DAY ON THE STREETS, YOUR A REAL PIECE OF SHIT, YOU DESERVE TO LOSE YOU JOB OVER THIS FUCKEN HACK PIECE !!!

  • In reply to Tae Lee:

    Interesting that you would assume I'm a republican who's never been homeless.

    You're wrong on both counts but I hope taking a moment to rant made you feel better.

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